When the Pregnancy After Your NICU Baby Is Uncomplicated
If he can stay put long enough, we’re expecting the arrival of our next little one by C-section next week. We’re only now getting around to preparing the house for his arrival by sorting clothes, setting up the crib and installing the infant car seat. The timing struck me as odd since we did these things months in advance for my other son and daughter. We’ve been so busy, and it always seemed like we would have more free time to prepare. This was actually one of several things that have struck me as odd as I anticipate this baby’s arrival, as compared to the complicated early birth of my daughter, June, two years ago.
1. You never assume your pregnancy and birth will be normal and uncomplicated until it actually happens that way.
My first pregnancy with my son was complicated by symptoms of preeclampsia, although he made it to full term and had an uncomplicated birth and nursery stay. I had a second pregnancy a year after the birth of my son, which ended in an early miscarriage.
During my third pregnancy with my daughter, I illogically assumed by some “law of averages,” I would experience a normal pregnancy after having two difficult ones. Although ultimately proven false, this assumption did allow me to have a relatively anxiety-free pregnancy until her tachycardia manifested at a routine 30-week check-up, and I was suddenly surrounded by doctors talking about life-flighting me to the medical center downtown. I delivered early and spent two and a half months in the level 3 NICU.
So this time around, I made no assumptions either way. I was neither convinced that everything would be fine nor that “something bad” would happen. I just checked off every milestone as it came:
Made it through the first trimester without miscarrying. Great.
Passed the genetic screening. Great.
Normal anatomy scan. Great.
Normal diabetes test. Great.
No high blood pressure. Great.
And now, finally made it to full term. Great!
It may seem like not assuming the best outcome from the start would be less enjoyable or less peaceful than maintaining blind optimism. I didn’t experience it that way, though. I appreciated making it past each milestone much more since I didn’t take it as a given.
2. Your pregnancy goes by quickly.
This may be related to already having kids in general since you’re chasing after little ones instead of searching WebMD every time you have a twinge or twitch. And if your NICU baby is still in the “medically complex” category, you have even more on your plate distracting you from your swollen ankles and food cravings. I was even blessed to have minimal nausea and almost forgot I was pregnant. When I checked my pregnancy tracker app, I was shocked to see how many weeks and even what trimester I was in.
3. You get to use baby clothes you couldn’t last time.
For most of her NICU stay, June wasn’t allowed to wear clothing due to a warmer, a central line and the need for immediate observation of her respiration and coloring. When she came home at 2 1/2 months, she had outgrown a few items and others were out of season. She had missed Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, along with the cute holiday outfits.
4. You realize you don’t have to modify clothes for tubes and wires.
As I sorted through the clothes today, I thought, “These pants won’t work with the pulse ox probe,” “That Velcro is going to stick to all the gauze” and “There isn’t any access for the EKG leads or a G-button.” It was strange to realize my new baby (hopefully) won’t have all of those attachments.
5. You wonder what you’re going to do without all of those tubes and wires.
When I see strangers relaxing while their baby naps in a covered stroller or in a corner or in the next room, I can’t fathom how they do it. June has required 24/7 visual or pulse ox monitoring since birth. A silent trach plug can be fatal in a matter of minutes. How can I switch gears with this little one, allowing him to sleep unobserved and unmonitored, trusting completely his respiratory and cardiac systems will just do everything they need to do? I hope the switch will happen naturally somehow.
6. You’ll feel like you’re smuggling your baby out of the hospital.
This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I guarantee you if I’m able to leave the hospital after three to four days with my newborn in my arms, I’ll be looking over my shoulder expecting a nurse to chase me down and take my tiny baby back to the nursery. After all, they kept June for two and a half months, and when she did get to leave with us, our car was followed by an entourage of nursing agency staff and durable medical equipment reps to help get us set up at home. We practically brought the hospital home with us.
7. You realize you’ll experience firsts you missed the last time.
Hearing the baby’s voice, being able to do skin-to-skin early, nursing without pumping, changing those first diapers, giving the first bath, tending to the umbilical site, dressing the baby, and the two most radical for us, introducing a newborn’s sleeping and feeding schedules into our home and having a baby in the house that can cry — out loud — will all be firsts for us.
8. You’ll marvel at the fact you made it.
I still can’t believe I’ve made it to full term and nothing weird has happened. So far.
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